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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Three years and a different world ago, I attended a scientific conference at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on a gene editing technique called CRISPR, or more technically CRISPR-cas9.

I rubbed elbows with some of the many talented scientists at an internationally renowned institution. In a casual atmosphere filled with high-powered talks from people who speak the language of science with accents from all over the world, the grounds at CSHL, with its winding roads and personalized parking spaces, offers a tree-lined backdrop for new collaborations and discoveries.

Back then, I invited one of the conference organizers, Jennifer Doudna (pronounced Dowd nuh), who is a Professor of Chemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, to lunch.

After a talk she gave to a packed Grace Auditorium, she and I strolled to the cafeteria to discuss a gene editing tool that has the potential to change the world.

Indeed, even today, labs around the world are using a technique based on the way bacteria recognize and fight off viruses to combat the effect of SARS-CoV-2, or the virus that causes COVID-19.

During that sunny July day in 2017, however, we were blissfully unaware of the challenges to come in 2020. We sat down at a central table outside, with people passing, nodding and acknowledging my tall and talented lunch guest.

While she responded to an appreciative crowd of casually dressed researchers, she was present and focused on the many questions I’d prepared for an upcoming Power of 3 column (see page B9 for another look at that column).

Like many revolutionary technologies and inventions such as splitting the atom, CRISPR is neither all good nor all bad. Editing genes creates opportunities to cure or prevent diseases and to disarm a range of miniature invaders.

At the same time, gene editing puts the power of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein into the hands of scientists or doctors, offering the kind of tool that requires careful ethical considerations.

Indeed, just last year, a Chinese court sentenced a researcher to three years in prison for using gene editing in unborn babies.

Doudna, who moved to Hawaii when she was seven and is a passionate gardener, is in the third year of a four-year $65 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which monitors security concerns for the intentional or accidental misuse of the technology.

Eating with Doudna on a breezy, bright summer day, I appreciated how ready she was to tailor the conversation to my level of understanding of this technology, offering details about gene editing and making sure I understood her.

While she was impressive and articulate, she certainly didn’t seem as if she were speaking to me from on high. She shared a deliberate and directed intelligence, blending a combination of an explanation of what she’d done and thoughts on the next scientific steps.

Doudna, who lives with her husband Jamie Cate, who is also a Berkeley scientist, and their high school senior son Andrew, shared an appreciation for the history of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where she’d visited at different points in her career.

Back in 1987, she spotted a woman walking towards her. Nobel prize winner Barbara McClintock, whose name still comes up regularly in conversations with scientists at the site, strolled by, giving Doudna a thrill.

The next time someone spots or interacts with the Berkeley Professor at CSHL, they will likely feel the same excitement, as Doudna was recently named a recipient of the Nobel Prize.

Then again, it was clear from the way the attendees at the conference reacted to Doudna three years ago that, Nobel prize or not, she was already a rock star in the scientific community whose foundational work may, one day, lead to the kind of breakthroughs that extend and improve life.

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We weren’t surprised when business owners in the wedding industry held a press conference Oct. 2 to appeal to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). For months, while restaurants have been able to operate at 50% capacity, reception locations can only allow 50 guests at an event.

The 50-guest cap and arbitrary state guidelines have been concerns of several business owners in the wedding and party industry. These locals have shared their experiences with TBR News Media for articles in the last few months, and vendors weren’t quite sure what they could do or not do, as they have had little direct communication with the state.

While we understand the need for Cuomo’s administration to keep gatherings down to a minimum, there needs to be more continuity and empathy in the guidelines. With the support of legislators, a class-action lawsuit is being filed by caterers. Business owners at the press conference said they feel they can provide a safer party than those being thrown in homes and backyards since they have more space to social distance and need to follow higher cleanliness standards. Owners said they realize following the guidelines is imperative for not only safety but to keep their licenses — something a homeowner doesn’t need to entertain.

The business owners may have a chance. This summer a federal judge issued a temporary injunction to allow an upstate golf club to operate at 50% capacity for two weddings after the couples and co-owner of the club sued New York State. That owner said his restaurant had the capacity to seat 438 people, but while operating as a restaurant one night he could have more than 200 people, on a wedding night he could only have 50.

This example may leave one wondering how a person visiting a restaurant could potentially be around more than 50 strangers, but cannot sit with more than 50 family members, friends and acquaintances at a party, especially since many wedding venues are committed to following current public health guidelines, including discouraging dancing.

Like so many businesses, COVID-19 has had a tremendous negative financial effect on the wedding industry and many are hoping to get back on track or else they may have to close their doors forever. During the shutdowns, venues had no money coming in while still needing to pay rent and utility bills. This has had a trickle-down effect where photographers, videographers, DJs and bands are called for less work, and while bakeries may have made some wedding and other celebratory cakes, the orders are smaller in size than usual.

If venues get their way, it’s imperative that owners and employees follow public-health guidelines such as 50% occupancy, social distancing, banning dancing and enforcing mask wearing when people are not seated. Seeing how restaurants in our coverage areas have been able to come up with creative ways to serve their patrons safely, including turning parking lots into outdoor dining areas, using tents — even small ones for individual parties — we believe wedding venue owners will do the same.

Of course, keeping our local businesses open works both ways. It will take more than residents signing a petition to help these businesses stay afloat, it will also require people to follow public health guidelines. So, we implore individuals to be responsible as well. It’s up to all of us to stay 6 feet away from each other, wear a mask, wash our hands regularly and stay home when we are feeling ill.

There’s a certain positive energy in the air when people come together to celebrate, and even if they can’t hug, kiss or show off their moves on the dance floor, we’re sure the majority will appreciate being there for their loved ones just as much as having dinner at their favorite restaurant.

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By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Serving wine at home, on a picnic or during a festive occasion is fun and with just a few simple tips listed below, you will be on your way to an enjoyable time.

Opening Table and Sparkling Wines

Table wines: Cut the capsule near the bottle’s neck, then remove it using the edge of the knife blade. Insert the point of the corkscrew’s worm into the cork and with a gentle downward pressure, screw the worm clockwise until only one notch is showing. Then, attach the corkscrew’s lever to the lip on top of the bottle and while holding it firmly, lift the handle of the corkscrew in a straight motion until the cork comes out of the bottle.

Sparkling wines. Remove the foil capsule; untwist and loosen the wire cage but do not remove it. Hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle pointed away from you and anyone around you; while holding the cork in one hand, twist the bottle in a downward motion with the other hand. Allow the cork to ease out until a gentle “pop” is heard. Continue to hold the bottle at this angle for a few more moments to equalize the pressure inside the bottle. Then stand the bottle up; it is ready to pour. Under no circumstances ever use a corkscrew to open a bottle of sparkling wine.

Serving Tips

• White and sparkling wine can be chilled in 20 minutes if immersed in an ice bucket containing a mixture of ice and cold water.

• A wine glass should have a stem and contain between 6 to 10 oz.

• Champagne glasses should be flute or tulip-shaped, rather than the flat, “saucer-shaped” glass.

• Wine glasses should be filled only one-third for white wines and one-half to two-thirds for red wines.

Serving Temperatures for Table Wines

• Dry white wines  50–55 degrees

• Dry, light-bodied red and rosé wines 60–65 degrees

• Dry, full-bodied red wines 65–68 degrees

• Sparkling wines 42–46 degrees

• Sweet red and white wines 42–46 degrees

Proper Order of Serving Wines

• Light wines should precede heavy or full-bodied wines.

• Dry wines should precede sweet wines.

• Dry white wines should precede dry red wines.

Dry red wines should precede sweet white wines.

• Dry sparkling wines can be served before, during or after dinner, while sweet sparkling wines are best after dinner.

• Port, Sherry, Madeira, and Marsala are generally served after dinner. However, the dry versions — White Port, Fino Sherry, Sercial Madeira, and Dry Marsala can be served before dinner.

Well, there you have it. Now go and enjoy yourself!

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].

Not so fast! Soy milk may have a negative impact on the thyroid. METRO photo
Use extreme caution when taking supplements

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

Hypothyroidism can cause weight gain and low energy, but diagnosing and treating it can be tricky. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped organ at the base of the neck, and it is responsible for maintaining our metabolism. The prefix “hypo,” derived from Greek, means “under” (1). Therefore, hypothyroidism indicates an underactive thyroid and results in slowing of the metabolism.

Blood tests determine if a person has hypothyroidism. Items that are tested include thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which is usually increased, thyroxine (free T4) and triiodothyronine (free T3 or T3 uptake). Both of these last two may be suppressed, or lowered (2).

There are two types of primary hypothyroidism: subclinical and overt. In the overt (more obvious) type, classic symptoms include weight gain, fatigue, thinning hair, cold intolerance, dry skin and depression, as well as the changes in all three thyroid hormones on blood tests mentioned above.

In the subclinical, there may be less obvious or vague symptoms and only changes in the TSH. The subclinical can progress to the overt stage rapidly in some cases (3). Subclinical is substantially more common than overt; its prevalence may be as high as 10 percent of the U.S. population (4).

The most common type of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, where antibodies attack thyroid gland tissues (5). Several blood tests are useful to determine if a patient has Hashimoto’s: thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies and antithyroglobulin antibodies.

Medications

Levothyroxine and Armour Thyroid are two main medications for hypothyroidism. The difference is that Armour Thyroid converts T4 into T3, while levothyroxine does not. Therefore, one medication may be more appropriate than the other, depending on the circumstance. T3 can also be given with levothyroxine, which is similar to using Armour Thyroid.

What about supplements?

A study tested 10 different thyroid support supplements; the results were downright disappointing, if not a bit scary (6). Of the supplements tested, 90 percent contained actual medication, some to levels higher than what are found in prescription medications. These supplements could cause toxic effects. There is a narrow therapeutic window when it comes to the appropriate medication dosage for treating hypothyroidism, and it is sensitive. Therefore, if you are going to consider using supplements, check with your doctor and tread very lightly.

Soy impact

In a randomized controlled trial, the treatment group that received higher amounts of soy supplementation had a threefold greater risk of conversion from subclinical hypothyroidism to overt hypothyroidism than those who received considerably less supplementation (7). According to this small, yet well-designed, study, soy has a negative impact on the thyroid. Therefore, those with hypothyroidism may want to minimize or avoid soy.

The reason that soy may have this negative impact was illustrated in a study involving rat thyrocytes (thyroid cells) (8). Researchers found that soy isoflavones, especially genistein, which are usually beneficial, may contribute to autoimmune thyroid disease, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. They also found that soy may inhibit the absorption of iodide in the thyroid.

Weight loss

Wouldn’t it be nice if the silver lining of hypothyroidism is that, with medication to treat the disease, we were guaranteed to lose weight? In a retrospective study, results showed that only about half of those treated with medication for hypothyroidism lost weight (9). This was a small study, and we need a large randomized controlled trial to test it further.

WARNING: The FDA has a black box warning on thyroid medications — they should never be used as weight loss drugs (10). They could put a patient in a hyperthyroid state or worse, with potentially catastrophic results.

Coffee

Taking levothyroxine and coffee together may decrease the absorption of levothyroxine significantly, according to one study (11). It did not seem to matter whether they were taken together or an hour apart. This was a very small study involving only eight patients. Still, I recommend avoiding coffee for several hours after taking the medication.

Vegetables

There is a theory that vegetables, specifically cruciferous ones such as cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli, may exacerbate hypothyroidism. In one animal study, results suggested that very high intake of these vegetables reduces thyroid functioning (12). This study was done over 30 years ago, and it has not been replicated.

Importantly, this may not be the case in humans. In the recently published Adventist Health Study-2, results showed that those who had a vegan-based diet were less likely to develop hypothyroidism than those who ate an omnivore diet (13). And those who added lactose and eggs to the vegan diet also had a small increased risk of developing hypothyroidism. However, this trial did not focus on raw cruciferous vegetables, where additional study is much needed.

There are two take-home points, if you have hypothyroid issues: Try to avoid soy products, and don’t think supplements that claim to be thyroid support and good for you are harmless because they are over the counter and “natural.” In my clinical experience, an anti-inflammatory, vegetable-rich diet helps improve quality of life issues, especially fatigue and weight gain, for those with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

References:

(1) dictionary.com. (2) nlm.nih.gov. (3) Endocr Pract. 2005;11:115-119. (4) Arch Intern Med. 2000;160:526-534. (5) mayoclinic.org. (6) Thyroid. 2013;23:1233-1237. (7) J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 May;96:1442-1449. (8) Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2013;238:623-630. (9) American Thyroid Association. 2013;Abstract 185. (10) FDA.gov. (11) Thyroid. 2008;18:293-301. (12) Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1983;18:123-201. (13) Nutrients. 2013 Nov. 20;5:4642-4652.

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com.

We get it. The only time most of us think about Suffolk County buses is when we’re stuck behind them on the oft-congested Long Island roads.

But despite how many Long Islanders complain about the traffic, those who use Suffolk County buses every week have it that much worse, as the county has announced the potential loss of 19 bus routes all across the Island affecting about 2,500 riders. A loss of routes impacts the most vulnerable people, namely the poor, elderly or handicapped folks.

This is a real crisis, and it does not seem like everyone is on the same page about just what that means. The S62 bus is the only thing that can take somebody east and west in the Rocky Point area without having to call for an expensive cab. The north/south line of the S54, which many retail and service industry workers use to get to their jobs, is on the chopping block as well.

Some lines have very few daily riders, but even if one of those people won’t be able to get to their job, to the supermarket or even to visit friends and family, it will be a loss for the greater community.

This comes a week after county officials said they will need to cut two whole Suffolk County police classes, which means 200 new recruits not being put out on the streets.

County Executive Steve Bellone’s (D) now weekly press conferences portending doom if the federal government doesn’t come through with funds for state and local municipalities are a kind of theater, yes, but they are also perhaps the only way for the county executive to make his point beyond sitting in the president’s lap and telling “Santa Trump” all the things he wants for Christmas, before the county hits the point where a budget goes through, and so do the cuts.

And that makes some local elective’s response to Bellone’s talk that much more exasperating. Republicans in the county Legislature contend the current financial woes are all the executive’s doing, and that since he already received over $280 million in federal aid, we should not be hitting up the federal government for more. That would be fine, if Suffolk wasn’t going to see at least an $800 million deficit going into next year

Beyond judging just how badly the current executive has handled Suffolk’s finances, the argument falls flat when every municipality from Montauk to Orange County, every village, town and county have all said they need federal funds as well. The congressional delegation, including both Democrats and Republicans, has at least been outspoken about the need for federal funds, but the fact is the top dogs for both parties have failed to drop the animosity and create an aid package for the municipalities nationwide who need it.

It seems like the executive and minority party in the Legislature are not on the same page — as if they ever really are — but there needs to be one, and only one, message on this issue, not a cacophony of back chatter. As important as the past state of Suffolk County finances was before the pandemic, and still is after the fact, the only way that any of these local municipalities can get to the position where those arguments are valid is if we’re all on a stable financial footing.

Because we believe Bellone when he says there won’t be a single line in the budget that hasn’t been impacted by the pandemic. The loss of police classes and bus routes might be the most physical and politically stimulating examples, but one should shudder to think what other municipal services, not even county but town as well, might be getting axed in their 2021 budgets.

We are thankful that Legislature Republicans have been keeping on top of Suffolk’s financial well-being, beyond partisan politics we know it’s necessary, but now is not the time for disunity, not when the water is slowly rising and is at our necks.

Our voices need to be one, at least in this strange moment of time. We are beating back COVID-19, at least for now. Congress should not be as hard as that was if we stick together.

Bear

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

My dog is delightfully imperfect. In fact, as I type this at my home computer, he is staring at me, hoping that I have succumbed to the snack urge and I will either intentionally toss a few morsels his way or that gravity will help him out, causing a carrot to slip off my desk.

Yes, he eats carrots, which isn’t terribly surprising because he also eats cat poop whenever he can get to it. I’m not sure he has taste buds or that he pays attention to them.

I love my imperfect dog and would like to share some of his quirks.

For starters, walking in a straight line is clearly against his religion. As soon as he’s on one part of a sidewalk, he needs to cross in front of me to the other side. He is a canine windshield wiper, swishing back and forth in case there is a scent, a scurrying insect, or a frog hopping nearby that he needs to see or smell.

When he’s not sitting during our walks, because he seems to have the words “walk” and “sit” confused, he turns around every few seconds to see what’s behind us. If he is a reincarnated person, he must have been in the rear guard of a military unit, making sure no one was following him.

When we turn around to go back in the direction he was staring, he then stops to look over his shoulder in the direction we had been walking.

It’s not about what’s out there, but what’s back there that concerns him.

His breath is an absolute mystery. He consumes a bowl of chicken and rice formula twice a day. And yet, somehow, his breath smells like fish. You know how they say you can hear the ocean in a conch shell? Well, you can smell the ocean, and not the good, salty crisp air parts, but the rotting-seaweed-and-dead-crabs-on-an-airless, overheated-beach parts, on my dog’s breath.

Then, there are the neighbors. They are so appealing to my dog that he pulls to go see them whenever they are outside. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that they drop a treat in front of him each time he appears.

Yes, I know I could train him, but I could also go running more often, go to bed earlier, read better books and make better choices for myself, so I haven’t trained either of us particularly well.

You know that delightful foot thing dogs do when you pet them behind the ear, on their stomach or on their chests? It’s the one where they shake their leg as you scratch them. Well, he does that once a month, as if he wants to confirm that he actually is a dog, but that he’s a conscientious objector to flailing his feet in the air regularly.

He treats the doorbell as if it were the starting gun at a race. He jumps up from the floor, ready to greet refrigerator repair people or HVAC workers as if they had come to see him, refusing to let them pass without an ear rub.

Food is the ultimate motivator. He may not particularly want to lie down at my feet and have me pet him while shaking his paws, but he does go back and forth with me to the grill. He always seems to be on the wrong side of our patio door. If he’s outside, he barks to come in. As soon as he’s inside, he barks to go out.

Maybe he’s not actually a dog, but a metaphor.

Pentimento Marketplace

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Local businesses continue to struggle and local employees continue to worry about job security. None of this is new, but perhaps we should stop simply waiting for matters to improve with a rebound in the economy or more stimulus help from Washington and take a more proactive role.

The word is: pivot. Some already have. Here are two examples to share with you. One is a restaurant in Stony Brook village, the other is action taken by two people in their 20s.

Many restaurants already have moved in collateral directions. They have developed take-out orders for curbside pickup, and while that represents only a small fraction of the volume they would normally do, we have given up on the word “normal.” With diners unable to come inside, restaurateurs have sent meals outside.

Then many took the further step, and made the additional investment to create outside dining areas as the world came to learn that eating outside was a lot safer. They built tents, leaving one side open to qualify as “outside,” so as to serve meals in the open air, and local governments cooperated by allowing tents to mushroom in parking lots.

Residents discovered the pleasure of eating “en plein air,” much as artists have when painting. Now some restaurant owners are hurrying to add heating devices to the tents so that patrons will continue to come and be able to eat in comfort despite cooler weather. European cafes have long ago mastered this arrangement.

While these are examples of rearrangements around cooking and serving food in order to survive, Pentimento Restaurant has made a true pivot. In addition to patio dining, which they are fortunate to offer behind their intimate restaurant, they have taken out the tables and chairs in one now unused room and turned it into a marketplace instead.

Featured by the owners are fresh produce, attractively displayed, and all manner of unusual high end foods in jars and cans, many from other countries. There are also prepared foods in the freezer to take out and even some delicious ice cream. Those who dine on the patio are a “captive” audience of potential shoppers as they pass the new offerings on their way out, and they seemed delighted by the selections.

The other example involves my oldest grandson. He is known to some of you as the filmmaker of the historic “One Life to Give,” telling the story of Nathan Hale, Benjamin Tallmadge and the beginnings of the Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring that was shown at the Staller Center and is being viewed in school districts.

He had moved to the West Coast to continue his chosen career. After some initial success, but with Hollywood now locked down, he and a friend cast around for something else to occupy their creative energies and to pay the rent. Fanciful stickers caught their attention, and they started out by applying them to work calendars and back packs, taking orders to customize such utilitarian products.

They really hit their stride when they customized 32-ounce clear plastic drinking cups, the kind with covers and straws featuring stickers displaying different themes. These they then mailed to initial customers. Putting together their skills, they made a video of themselves creating the stickers and decorating the cups, then showed the video on the internet. A few orders trickled in, then their business took off.

He still intends to return to his dream career, but until then … bottoms up!

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By Nancy Burner, Esq.

Nancy Burner, Esq., li

Making medical decisions for a loved one is extremely difficult, but making end of life decisions for someone is legally impossible without proof of his or her wishes. In New York, nobody may make end of life decisions for another — such as to forgo life sustaining treatments which only serve to artificially prolong one’s life — unless there is “clear and convincing” evidence of that person’s medical wishes. A Living Will document is the standard manner in which that burden is met.

A Living Will is part of a trio of “advanced directives,” which include a health care proxy and durable power of attorney, that help people plan for incapacity. Although you may name an agent to make medical decisions for you under a Health Care Proxy, that person cannot use his or her own judgment to reject life prolonging medical treatment for you — even if you are in a vegetative state with no hope of recovery.

The agent must provide sufficient proof of whether you would want cardiac resuscitation, mechanical respiration, artificial nutrition and hydration, antibiotics, blood, kidney dialysis, surgery or invasive diagnostic tests. A Living Will document specifically states what medical actions should be taken if you are in a terminal state with no reasonable hope of recovery and cannot communicate your wishes. Without it, your family members may end up in court offering testimony of why you would not have wanted to be kept alive if your quality of life was so poor. A video, a letter, a Facebook post — any such evidence could meet the “clear and convincing” burden.

A standard living will refuses all life-sustaining procedures if such measures only serve to artificially prolong one’s life. Such treatments are limited to making the patient comfortable and maximizing pain relief. However, this is not a requirement. A Living Will can and should be tailored to an individual’s specific needs and beliefs, even if it means that person wants all life-sustaining measures to be taken. Before executing a Living Will, you should consider what medical treatments are to be administered and under what medical conditions. Additionally, a Living Will can state your preference to be kept at home, if possible, rather than in a hospital.

It is important that when deciding who will act as a health care agent, you choose an individual who not only understands your wishes but is also willing to carry them out. Religious beliefs, for example, may prevent someone from “pulling the plug” even though you specifically instruct your agent to do so. A loved one may have a hard time carrying out your wishes for emotional reasons.

Before appointing an agent, you should have a discussion with them to ensure they understand your treatment plan and agree to follow same. If you cannot find an agent to carry out your wishes, the living will can be filed with your doctor or the hospital so that it is on record and provides instructions to your attending physician.

As you can see, a Living Will is a crucial estate planning document that all individuals should have in place. It is important to discuss your wishes with an Estate Planning attorney to ensure that your preferences will be carried out are legally valid.

Nancy Burner, Esq. practices elder law and estate planning from her East Setauket office.

METRO photo

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

School has just begun. In our county, we have a wide range of educational opportunities and experiences. Each school district is attempting to respond responsibly to all families and their children. That is a very complex and challenging dynamic because every school community is so vastly different.

It continues to amaze me that very simple and basic practices that are evidence-based are so complicated to embrace for a number of people in our midst. We have allowed our destructive political rhetoric to impair our common sense and basic efforts to support some very basic common-sense practices that protect all of us.

My college students both on campus and online are an inspiration. They are open and insightful. They are hungering to learn and genuinely make a positive contribution to our community that will make a profound difference in the future.

This pandemic is a powerful opportunity for us to draw closer together. It’s an opportunity to build new bridges of understanding and compassion. It’s an opportunity to challenge the bigotry and hatred that has become so infectious.

These are challenging times. We can look at these challenges as burdens that are burying us under or we can see them as opportunities for change and transformation. There are so many life lessons to be learned, if we have the courage to take the blinders off and listen.

We will never return to the life we once knew before the pandemic. However, we have an opportunity to create a new tomorrow that is rich with opportunity and possibility that can be life-giving, if we have the courage to live differently.

There are so many life lessons to be learned. This pandemic has brought families together. People are talking and connecting in ways that were never imagined. Many of us have had to rearrange our priorities. A growing number of people have become more other-centered than self-centered. I have witnessed countless random acts of kindness that have changed people’s lives.

It has been refreshing to listen to the next generation of leaders talk about making tomorrow’s America better and stronger, more inclusive and respectful; a place where diversity and difference are seen as a blessing and not a curse.

The America that my students speak about is an America filled with promise and opportunity for all, grounded in a respect for the dignity of every human person. It is an America that will not tolerate hateful rhetoric; that will respect people’s right to peacefully protest injustice and give voice to the voiceless. It is an America that empowers every citizen to dream dreams and believes those dreams can come true.

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

The first evidence of coyotes appearing on Long Island happened on June 24, 2013, in Bridgehampton on the South Fork. Stock photo

By John L. Turner

In March of 1995 wildlife officials began a fascinating ecological experiment in Yellowstone National Park, one that is still playing out today twenty-five years later. For in that month they released fourteen grey wolves in the park. Wolves were, as recently as 75 years before, a key ecological component of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem but hatred and prejudice toward predators at the time resulted in their extermination.

With wolves eliminated from the park, elk populations flourished. Their abundance wasn’t such a good thing for the park’s vegetation though, especially in the richer, low-lying areas along rivers, creeks, and other wetlands where they overgrazed the vegetation, destroying habitat and creating erosion problems. The situation quickly changed with the reintroduction of the wolf and for the past two and a half decades wolves have fundamentally reshaped the park’s ecosystem, causing a series of expected, and a few unexpected, changes.

Elk became both less abundant due to predation and more dispersed in an effort to avoid wolves, allowing riverside forests of cottonwood and aspen to become reestablished. The return of these forests set the stage for beavers to increase. It also meant the growth of more berry producing plants which grizzly bears favored. Coyotes decreased as a direct result of wolf predation and less coyotes meant more foxes which, in turn, affected the abundance of birds, rabbits and other small mammals.

Changes in these species affected other plants due to changes in their grazing and eating intensity of leaves, fruits, and seeds. All of these ripple effects, created by restoring wolves to their rightful place in the Yellowstone ecosystem, underscores the brilliance in John Muir’s famous quote:

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to

everything else in the universe.

Well, let’s fast forward to the present and focus locally for we have a similar ecological experiment involving the appearance of an apex predator unfolding before us — but its not Grey wolves and a western National Park but the Eastern coyote and the land mass we call Long Island, the last place in the continental United States the coyote was absent from.

The first evidence of coyotes appearing on Long Island happened on June 24, 2013, in Bridgehampton on the South  Fork. A potato farmer, working in one of his fields, spotted an animal that looked like a German Shepherd but it wasn’t any breed of domestic dog, nor was it a red or gray fox. He was able to snap a photograph and a review by experts confirmed it as an Eastern coyote, the first that had ever been sighted on Long Island.

Since then there have been several other conclusive sightings of coyotes in a few places and then, most notably, a breeding pair (and subsequent family) set up a territory near LaGuardia Airport. Unfortunately, people began to feed them. Adapting to human presence because of the feeding they became more visible and some neighbors began to view them as a safety threat. They were able to convince staff from the federal Department of Agriculture’s “Wildlife Services” Program (an agency that despite its innocuous sounding name kills wildlife as its main mission) to exterminate the family (save one fortunate individual that escaped).

This was a setback but through subsequent colonization attempts the wily coyote has established itself in northwestern Long Island where several breeding pairs now exist. These occurrences, and past efforts, suggest that it’s but a matter of time before coyotes extend their hold here and fully colonize Long Island. As they do, their presence will likely have far reaching impacts to both human and natural communities, as coyotes are likely to cause ecological effects that will ripple through the natural communities on Long Island and the wildlife species that make them up, not unlike what wolves caused at Yellowstone, although obviously involving different species.

Though generally shy and retiring and typically avoiding direct contact with humans, coyotes will, nevertheless, establish territories adjacent to, and within, suburban developments. This fact suggests Long Islanders should change some behavioral habits to minimize adverse interactions.

For example, coyotes are known to prey on pet and feral cats and small dogs in urban and suburban communities, so it is imperative that pet owners remain diligent and aware. Releasing a pet cat outside to “do its business” (a bad idea because of the ecological damage cats cause by preying on birds and small mammals) in areas where coyotes occur can put the cat’s life in peril. Letting small dogs out into the backyard unattended for the same reason may result in the same outcome.

There are a few strategies that can be employed to reduce the likelihood of coyotes visiting your yard in the first place. These include keeping pet dishes empty outside and securing household garbage.

Another potential source of conflict between humans and coyotes involves livestock and other domestic animals, although this is not likely to become a major issue here given the relatively few sheep, goats, and pigs. In view of the popularity of chickens though, predation might become an issue, so those who have free ranging chickens might want to consider another strategy like indoor enclosures, within which the birds can safely spend the night.

Coyotes have a highly varied diet and some of these diet items can be viewed favorably from a human perspective. For example, in addition to preying on feral cats (and pet cats as mentioned before) that have a devastating impact on backyard birds and small mammals, coyotes eat roadkill thereby helping to clean up roadsides. They also prey on white-tailed deer fawns which may help to reduce their current unhealthy population levels or at least slow down the growth in deer populations.

The current density of deer is having an adverse impact to Long Island forests by eating native plants to such an extent that many forest trees are unable to replace themselves, causing forests to lose their understory and overall diversity. One specific example is the loss of our native orchids such as pink ladies slippers which have become increasingly rare due to deer browsing.

Coyotes also prey on rabbits, opossums, reptile and bird eggs (including the eggs of the ubiquitous Canada Goose), and a variety of berries. Notably, they eat numerous rodents, the reduction of which may be positive in reducing the number of white-footed mice that play a fundamental role in the transmission of the Lyme’s disease spirochete.

Some studies have documented that coyotes often displace fox in shared habitat so one of the ecological effects scientists will look out for is the long-term impact of coyotes on fox populations. There will be interest in assessing their impact on other mammals, such as prey like woodchucks and mammalian competitors like raccoon and fox.

We’re not sure of these ecological outcomes and how precisely these ecological effects will unfold; such is the unpredictability and complexity of the natural world. Perhaps coyotes will have no impact in reducing deer numbers, no role in assisting in the recovery of Long Island’s forests, displacing foxes, or play no part in affecting Lyme’s disease. But like the wolves of Yellowstone National Park, coyotes by their mere presence, as part of the Long Island environment, WILL have an ecological impact and, likely, a broad and significant one at that.

The coyotes have begun the experiment and naturalists and ecologists look forward to seeing how it plays out both for their sake and for the two and four-legged occupants who live here.

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.